Women Fight Fire with Fitness

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Former Marine Instructs Program That Aims to Move Number of Women in FDNY from Worst to Best in the Nation

While most New York Sports Club (NYSC) members are training to lose weight and look better, a group of brave women are hitting the gym with a bigger goal: to save lives and hopefully join the elite Fire Department of New York City (FDNY). NYSC is partnering with the United Women Firefighters Association by offering free training classes three times a week to women who are preparing their bodies for the FDNY Academy’s grueling physical exam.

Sarinya Srisakul participated in these training classes when they were first offered eleven years ago, after 9/​11. She is currently the President of United Women Firefighters Association and is re-​​launching the initiative because she is determined to recruit, train and graduate more female firefighters in New York City.

“The FDNY only has 41 women out of 10,500 firefighters in the FDNY-​​approximately 0.4% of the force. Not only is this the worst score in gender disparity out of all metropolitan cities, it’s six times less than the national average,” she explains.

NYSC trainer and former Marine, Thompson Plyler, is pushing the candidates to build both upper and lower body strength and endurance while creating an environment that increases mental toughness. “These women have to be tougher than the fire. My drill sergeant taught us to be tougher than the enemy. Through working on endurance, burpees, sprints, squat jumps, pull ups, push-​​ups, special grip-​​strength exercises, StairMaster circuits with weighted vests, dummy-​​body lifts and drags, our candidates get fire-​​tough.”

This targeted training designed specifically to simulate fire academy and firefighting tasks has proven to be successful. At this year’s FDNY graduation in early June, 4 women graduated out of a class of 286 probationary firefighters, and three of the four went through the NYSC training program.

“All of the exercises are designed to get these women in shape and prepared to meet the physical demands of academy,” explains Srisahul, “You won’t find 5 lbs weights and fun music here!”

And she’s serious. Watching these women, many of who have served in the nation’s armed forces, lift a 175lb dummy, pull a 135lb sled, run on the treadmill/​stepmill while wearing lead vests, hurl kettle bells, slam heavy medicine balls to the ground, and perform seemingly endless pull-​​ups and push-​​ups makes you proud.

You know they’ll have the strength to tackle on-​​the-​​job challenges like carrying unconscious people out of burning buildings while wearing heavy firefighter uniforms. They already have that strength inside them.

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NikkiFitness is a personal trainer, group exercise instructor, writer and publicist living in New York City. She started as a cheerleader at Syracuse University, but became certified in fitness before her beach wedding so that she could get back in shape. Laura, a graduate student, working mom, and military wife, inspired Nikki's Military Wife Workout (MWW) for all military wives. Find more articles by Nikki at her Military Fitness Center archive. Learn more at www.nikkifitness.com.

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